In the fall of 2012, Ken Liu was offered an interesting job at China education books import and export, a company with a seemingly bureaucratic name. The company is looking for an English translation for a psychedelic science fiction novel, the three-body problem. Ken liu, a computer programmer turned corporate lawyer turned science-fiction writer in the u.s., is a natural fit: fluent in mandarin, familiar with the metaphors and culture of Chinese science fiction, and a rising star in the genre. Still, Mr. Liu had translated only short stories at the time, and getting a handle on all the complexity of the novel seemed daunting.
The three-body problem is unlike anything Ken liu has ever read. Set in Beijing, Inner Mongolia and a distant planet, this esoteric epic is filled with exciting technical chapters on quantum theory, nanotechnology, orbital mechanics and astrophysics, interwoven with deep moral questions about the nature of good and evil, and reflections on humanity's place in the universe.
But as he began to translate, Ken liu ran into what appeared to be a more fundamental problem: the novel's narrative structure was unreasonable. The story jumps back and forth in time, to today's China, where an impending alien invasion has scientists and government officials on edge; Then it was 1967 in Beijing, early in the cultural revolution, and an astrophysicist watched helplessly as her physics professor father was branded a "reactionary academic authority" by MAO zedong's red guards and killed. Losing faith in humanity, the astrophysicist used a high-powered radio transmitter to broadcast a bold message to aliens living in nearby galaxies, an act that had dire consequences.
Exploring the novel's chaotic timeline, Ken liu finds what he sees as the natural beginning of the story: scenes of political violence and oppression during the cultural revolution, a painful moment that triggers the interplanetary conflict that follows. He suggests pulling out the historical flashbacks hidden in the middle of the story and turning them into the beginning of the novel, an unusual intrusion for the translator.
When Ken liu suggested the radical change to the novelist, he was prepared for rejection. The author, liu cixin, a rising figure in China's burgeoning science fiction community, was quick to agree to Ken liu's suggestion. "That's what I thought!" Ken liu recalled liu cixin said.
In fact, the cultural revolution had torn his family apart. Though he was only three years old when the political unrest began, he remembers hearing gunshots at night and seeing trucks full of people wearing red armbands patrolling the city in Shanxi Province, where he lives. When the situation there became unstable, his parents, who worked in the coal mines, sent him to live with relatives in henan. The brutality of MAO's revolution was also an important part of the story liu cixin wanted to tell in the three-body problem. But his Chinese publishing house was concerned that if the opening scenes were too political, the book might never get through government censors, so the scenes were moved to the middle of the story to make them less noticeable, Mr. Liu said.
《三体》的英文版于2014年出版后，被誉为推想小说的开创性作品。美国总统贝拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)赞扬它“极富想象力”。马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)向他在Facebook上的数千万关注者推荐了这本书;乔治·R·R·马丁(George R.R. Martin)在博客上写了有关文章。全世界的出版商都想得到翻译版权，这部小说最终以26种语言发行，包括土耳其语和爱沙尼亚语。它赢得了2015年度雨果奖，这是科幻作品领域最负盛名的荣誉之一，让刘慈欣成为首位获得雨果奖最佳长篇小说奖的亚洲作家。这也是长篇翻译小说首次获得该奖项。这部小说和它的两部续集在全球售出了近900万册。
When the three-body problem was published in English in 2014, it was hailed as a groundbreaking work of speculative fiction. President Barack Obama praised it as "highly imaginative". Mark Zuckerberg recommended the book to his tens of millions of Facebook followers; George R.R. Martin wrote about it on his blog. Publishers around the world sought the translation rights, and the novel was eventually released in 26 languages, including Turkish and Estonian. It won the 2015 Hugo award, one of the most prestigious honors in science fiction, making liu cixin the first Asian writer to win the award for best novel. This is the first time a full-length translated novel has won the award. The novel and its two sequels have sold nearly nine million copies worldwide.
Mr. Liu now says he advises Chinese science-fiction fans who understand English to read Ken liu's translation of "the three-body problem," rather than the Chinese version. "Usually, when Chinese literature is translated into a foreign language, something is lost," he said. "I don't think that's the case with the three-body problem. I think it gets something out of the translation."
The success of the three-body problem has not only made liu a global literary star, it has also greatly increased demand for new translations of Chinese science fiction. That, in turn, has made Ken liu an important conduit for Chinese writers seeking western readers, making him as popular a literary brand as the bestselling authors he has translated. Ken liu's translation reshaped the global landscape of science fiction, which has long been dominated by American and British writers. Over the past decade, he has translated five novels and more than 50 short stories by more than a dozen Chinese writers, many of which he personally found and strongly supported.<纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/>
仅今年一年，刘宇昆就出版了三部重要的新译作：《碎星星》(Broken Stars)，这是他翻译的14位中国科幻作家的短篇小说集;他还翻译了李俊(笔名宝树)的《三体X：观想之宙》，故事发生在一场星际大战之后;再就是陈楸帆《荒潮》 的译本，这是一部令人沮丧的反乌托邦小说，故事发生在中国海岸一个污染严重的半岛上，贫困的农民工在那里回收世界各地的电子垃圾。明年，Saga出版社将出版他翻译的郝景芳长篇小说《流浪玛厄斯》，长达624页，这是一部曲折的哲学寓言，讲述了在火星上过公社生活的人类殖民者与日益资本主义化的地球之间的意识形态裂痕。
This year alone, Ken liu has published three major new translations: "Broken Stars," a collection of short stories by 14 Chinese science fiction writers; He also translated li jun (pseudonym baoshu) 's three-body X: the universe of visualizations, set after a star war; Then there is Chen qifan's translation of "wild tides," a depressing dystopian novel set on a heavily polluted peninsula off the coast of China, where impoverished migrant workers recycle electronic waste from around the world. Next year, Saga publishing will publish his translation of hao jingfang's 624-page novel "vagrant maas," a twisting philosophical fable about the ideological rift between human colonizers living in communes on Mars and an increasingly capitalist earth.
Some of China's most thought-provoking science fiction writers don't publish through traditional channels, so Ken liu searches Internet forums, social messaging sites like weibo and WeChat, and self-publishing platform douban. He has found sci-fi stories in unusual corners of the Internet, including on tsinghua university alumni forums. As the emissary of some of China's most provocative and borderline writers, Ken liu has become more than just a discoverer and translator. He is now also arranger, editor and director, a knowledgeable translator who has done more than anyone to bridge the gap in the imagination between the world's current decline and the rising superpowers.
It's no surprise that science fiction is booming in China, where the rapid technological shift has a surreal feel. Economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens out of poverty and brought extreme wealth to the upper and political classes, but technology has also become an instrument of state oppression. Some Chinese factories have equipped workers with equipment that measures brain wave activity, monitoring their mood swings and alertness. Bird-like drones are used to spy on citizens, a common practice with face-recognition technology. On social media and instant messaging apps, posts containing certain banned words are automatically censored. After decades behind in the space race, China recently made a historic landing on the far side of the moon and plans to build a permanent research base there. China also plans to send a rover to Mars next year.
“在中国，有一种官方宣传的观点，那就是科幻小说是关于想象力的，未来就是那样的，”刘宇昆今年4月对纽约的听众说，当时他作为参加美国华人博物馆(Museum of Chinese in America)一个小组讨论的成员，向听众介绍了越来越受欢迎的中国科幻小说。“实际上，最有趣的科幻小说当中，很多都更具颠覆性，”他继续说。“科幻小说是一种对社会上正在发生的事情的讽刺性评论。而且由于中国的很多事情都在迅速变化，科幻小说经常让人觉得是描述当下事情的最现实的手法。”
In China, have a kind of official propaganda point of view, that is science fiction is about imagination, the future is like that, Ken liu told the audience in New York in April this year, he was as to participate in the Museum of Chinese in America (Museum of Chinese in America) members of a group discussion, to the audience become more and more popular in the Chinese fiction are introduced. "In fact, many of the most interesting science fiction stories are more subversive," he continued. "Science fiction is a kind of satirical commentary on what's going on in society. And because so many things are changing so fast in China, science fiction often feels like the most realistic way to describe what's going on."
Ken liu was born in 1976 in lanzhou, an industrial city in northwest China's gansu province. His parents went abroad when he was four years old (his father went to east Germany to study statistics, his mother went to the United States to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry), and he stayed in China with his grandparents, both science professors, who "love to keep books," he said.
小时候，他什么都读。在小学时，他发现了美国科幻小说的中文译本。他读了菲利普·K·迪克(Philip K. Dick)的《仿生人会梦见电子羊吗?》(Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)，却没有意识到这是科幻小说，错把书中人类奴役机器人的后末日都市地狱景象当成美国生活的真实写照。
As a child, he read everything. In elementary school, he discovered a Chinese translation of American science fiction. He read Philip k. Dick's "do bionic men dream of electric sheep? Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? , without realizing it was science fiction, mistaking the post-apocalyptic urban hell in which humans enslave robots for the reality of American life.
At age 11, he moved to Palo Alto, calif., where his mother worked as a pharmacist and his father was a statistical analyst.
他用约一年时间学习了英语，不久便能阅读《时间的皱褶》(A Wrinkle in Time)和《鹿苑长春》(The Yearling)等小说，接着又读了福克纳和梅尔维尔等作家的美国经典小说，以及奥森·斯科特·卡德(Orson Scott Card)、玛格丽特·阿特伍德(Margaret Atwood)和亚瑟·C·克拉克(Arthur C. Clarke)的科幻小说。他成绩优异，上了哈佛，主修英语，并学习计算机科学。
He used about one year Time to learn English, can read The Time of ruffle soon (A Wrinkle in Time) and The Yearling (The Yearling), such as novels, then read The American classic novels of William Faulkner and Melville writers, as well as Orson Scott Card (Orson Welles Scott Card), Margaret Atwood (Margaret Atwood) and Arthur c. Clarke (Arthur c. Clarke) of science fiction. He excelled in school, went to harvard, majored in English, and studied computer science.
After graduating in 1998, Ken liu worked as a software engineer, first at Microsoft and then at a start-up called Idiom Technologies, where he met his future wife, qiyi deng. Then the Internet bubble burst, and Ken liu began to look for new directions. He went to law school, became a corporate lawyer, and later became a litigation consultant specializing in patent infringement and technology cases.
在漫长多变的职业历程中，刘宇昆始终在写小说。最终，他在科幻杂志上发表了自己的短篇小说，并因他奇特、超现实的故事而广受赞誉，它们有的是发生在遥远的行星，或去往可居住世界的星际宇宙飞船上，但往往以紧张的家庭关系为中心。他2011年的短篇小说《折纸》(The Paper Menagerie)讲了一个美国男孩的故事，他的母亲是中国移民，能为他精心制作能变成活物的折纸动物，这个故事获得了雨果奖、星云奖和世界奇幻奖，让刘宇昆成为第一位以一部作品包揽该类型三个主要大奖的作者。四年后，他出版了《国王的恩典》(The Grace of Kings)，这是一部史诗般的奇幻小说，借鉴了西方神话和史诗以及汉代的历史传说。2017年，他辞去工作，专心写作。
Ken liu has been writing novels throughout his long and varied career. Eventually, he published his own short stories in science fiction magazines and was widely praised for his quirky, surreal stories, which took place on distant planets or on interstellar spaceships to habitable worlds, but often centered on strained family relationships. His 2011 short story "origami" (The Paper Menagerie) a story about an American boy, his mother is Chinese immigrants, for his elaborate to become living origami animals, this story won The Hugo award, The nebula award, and The world fantasy prize, let Ken liu became The first woman to a work won The type The author of three major awards. Four years later, he published "The Grace of Kings," an epic fantasy novel that draws on western mythology and epics as well as historical legends from The han dynasty. In 2017, he quit his job to concentrate on writing.
Ken liu lives in stoughton, a small town outside Boston, with his wife, deng qiyi, now a photographer, and their two daughters, ages 7 and 9. Ken liu is a lithe, energetic 43-year-old with a buzz cut, bushy eyebrows and a boyish round face.
At his home -- a cheerful little house filled with his daughter's paintings and legos -- Ken liu shows me his office: a dark, cavernous room in the basement, filled with books. Near his desk are his four Hugo awards, two from his own short stories and two from his translations.
Ken liu told me he never intended to be an interpreter. In fact, it was Chinese writers who first discovered Ken liu, not the other way around. In 2009, after reading one of Ken liu's short stories, "the algorithm of love," in an online english-language science fiction magazine, Chen sent Ken liu an email saying he liked it. They stayed in touch, and a year later, Chen qifan asked Ken liu for advice on an English translation of one of his short stories, which he had commissioned from a translation agency. Ken liu was not satisfied with the translation and offered to edit it for him.
这篇小说名叫《丽江的鱼儿们》，故事发生在未来的中国，公司可以操纵员工对时间流逝的感受，以此提高员工的生产效率。刘宇昆的翻译于2011年在科幻杂志Clarkesworld上发表，并于次年在科幻与奇幻翻译奖(Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Award)的短篇小说类别中获奖。
The story, called the fish in lijiang, is set in a future China where companies can manipulate how employees feel about the passage of time to improve their productivity. Ken liu's Translation was published in the Science Fiction magazine Clarkesworld in 2011 and won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Award in the short story category the following year.
Ken liu is aware of the growing interest in Chinese science fiction. As he read more of these, he was shocked to discover a vast and diverse body of literature -- from hard sci-fi, surrealist horror and cyberpunk to dystopian historical fiction, political satire and time-travel stories.
He felt as if he had returned to his first Chinese translation of American science fiction as a child, as if he had entered a portal to another world.
In conversation with Ken liu, he was only vague when I asked him about the political implications of his translations. Dissident writers are jailed in China, and Ken liu often worries about the safety of the writers he works with.
These writers are very creative and courageous when they write, and I don't have the constraints and pressures that they have, and I try to be careful what I say so I don't get them into trouble, he told me.
More recently, rising political tensions with China and within China have made Ken liu's translation project more nuanced. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the human rights movement, a gloomy milestone that has led to more crackdowns on free speech and heightened vigilance by state censors amid a trade war with the United States and mass protests in Hong Kong. Some writers who have been able to summon the courage to deal with political and social issues, no matter how subtle, have balked at publishing their work or have begun self-censoring to avoid trouble.
在他最近的选集《碎星星》中，刘宇昆收录作家宝树的反乌托邦中篇小说的译文，题为“What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear”(昔日种种温和地重现)。在故事中，历史是倒退着的，中国从超级大国下滑为一个贫穷动荡的国家，随着主人公年龄的增长，他按照倒序经历了各种重大事件，目睹了2008年北京奥运会，接着是天安门抗议、文化大革命，饥荒年代和日本占领。故事的叙述者——“科幻小说界一颗冉冉升起的新星”——在故事的某一段落，就他在政治禁忌话题的写作风险进行了元小说式的揭示，指出一些批评家声称“我的作品是资本主义自由化的典型，有批评共产党的隐喻”。
In his latest anthology, "broken stars", Ken liu includes a translation of a dystopian novella by the author bao shu, entitled "What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear". In the story, history goes backwards, as China slides from superpower to poor and unstable country, and as the protagonist grows older, he experiences major events in reverse order, witnessing the 2008 Beijing Olympics, followed by the tiananmen protests, the cultural revolution, the famine years and the Japanese occupation. At one point, the story's narrator, "a rising star in science fiction", offers a meta-fiction account of the risks of his writing on politically taboo subjects, noting that some critics claim that "my work is a model of capitalist liberalisation with a metaphor for criticizing the communist party".
Baoshu's novella has never been published in China. Ken liu's English version is the only official release. When I asked Ken liu if he would release the English version to baoshu